Last week, we published an interview with author, speaker, and entrepreneur Evan Carmichael. That interview focused on his book, Your One Word, but toward the end, Carmichael and I got into a discussion about his approach to hiring. We didn’t think it fit with the overall theme of the interview, but we also felt his insights were highly valuable. Today, we’re presenting those insights.
Evan Carmichael thinks the hiring process is broken – and he thinks entrepreneurs have it especially bad. Most of them can’t afford to hire in-house recruiters or outsource hiring to a third-party, so they handle the brunt of the work themselves. And they’re passionate about their companies, so they spend a lot of time crafting their job posts to make sure they’re perfect.
Then they receive an influx of resumes from candidate who didn’t even take the time to read those job posts. They just saw an opening and applied. These aren’t people who share the entrepreneur’s mission and values; they’re people who just want a paycheck.
“Say you have a PHP programmer, and they’re auto-responding to every PHP job ad out there,” Carmichael says. “You put all this work into your job post, and it took them five seconds to apply. And now you have to read through their cover letters and applications.”
That’s why Carmichael takes a highly unorthodox approach to hiring – but it’s one that works for him. Out of all the people he has hired this way, only one left the company, but only because he was looking for a more senior position and Carmichael’s organization couldn’t support that career move just yet. He still checks in often and offers to lend a hand with any work that might be piling up.
The Benefits of a ‘Long, Huge, Ugly’ Job Post
“Too often, people hire for skills,” Carmichael says. “They don’t hire for values and culture fit enough. They’re like, ‘I’m struggling. I need a programmer ASAP. Just give me someone who knows the skills.’ Then they bring the person in, and it doesn’t work.”
To avoid making this mistake, Carmichael includes the theme of his company in the title of every job posting. (This goes back to the idea, explored in our previous interview, of the “One Word”: A single, defining value around which a whole company is built.)
Carmichael’s “One Word” is “Believe.”
“So, if I’m hiring a programer, it’ll be ‘I’m looking for a programmer who #Believes in entrepreneurs,’” he explains. “Some people will look at that job description and title and say, ‘That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. A programmer who believes in entrepreneurs?’”
Carmichael sees this as a good thing.
“For me, it’s fantastic. If you look at that and think it’s the stupidest job description ever, you will self-eliminate,” he says. “If you don’t believe in entrepreneurs, you’re going to have a terrible time working at my company. You can do something way more fulfilling somewhere else. Go find that.”
Other people, though, will respond positively.
“These are the people who will spend extra time customizing their cover letters and resumes to make themselves stand out,” Carmichael says. “Or maybe they’ll follow you on Twitter and engage with you or comment on your new YouTube video. They really, really want it.”
Carmichael’s job posts are fairly long. They cover the company’s mission, what it does, what the job is, and what the job requirements are. Somewhere in the middle of this “long, huge, ugly” job post, as he calls it, will be a simple directive: “In the first line of your application, tell me how many YouTube subscribers I have.”
“What ends up happening is a lot of people don’t even read the ad,” Carmichael says. “They just apply because it’s whatever role they’re looking for. If they aren’t going to take the time to read my job post, why am I going to take the time to read their cover letter?”
If an applicant follows the directions, Carmichael will read their application. If they don’t, the application gets tossed – regardless of the person’s references, history, or qualifications.
“Some people write back and say, ‘I saw the question. I’m happy to do it. Can you please tell me what your YouTube channel is?’” Carmichael says with a laugh. “It’s not that hard to type ‘Evan Carmichael’ into YouTube. Especially in an entrepreneurial environment, you need a little creative thinking and problem solving. So that person is gone.”
Skip the Interviews and Go Straight to Work
After that, most employers would conduct interviews. Carmichael doesn’t. In fact, oftentimes, there are no interviews at all in his hiring process.
“I think interviews for the most part test the wrong skills,” he explains. “If I’m hiring a programmer, how they deal in a job interview doesn’t really test the skills I need. The interview really lends itself to some jobs, but for a lot of jobs, it’s a big waste of time. Some of the best people on my team would have failed a job interview at most companies.”
Instead, anyone who answers the job post question correctly is given a paid trial job. The job reflects what the role would look like, and it should take about two hours to do – but Carmichael doesn’t tell candidates that. Rather, he tells them they have five hours to do it.
“Some people don’t even start the job,” he says. “Some people go for the full five hours. Great – either you’re really slow or you’re milking me. Either way, it’s a cheap way to find out this person won’t be a fit at my company.”
Some people will do the job in the two hours it takes – but one or two people will do the job and a little bit extra.
“For example, if I wanted them to write an article, they’ll say, ‘Here’s the version the way you wanted it. But I also felt it could use this, this, and this, so I tweaked it and made a second version. What do you think?’” Carmichael says. “That’s the person I hire.”
There is no formal, traditional interview at any point. Rather, Carmichael views the back and forth that occurs during the trial job as a type of interview.
“To do the job, they’ll need to ask questions,” he says. “The job might involve me, it might involve other people on my team. By working together like that, we can see if they could fit here.”